2 abandoned baby pygmy elephants saved in Malaysia

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June 8, 2010 5:20:33 AM PDT
Malaysian wildlife authorities rescued two starving pygmy elephant calves on Borneo island in the first known cases of the endangered animals being apparently abandoned by their mothers, an official said Monday.

Plantation workers discovered a 2-year-old female elephant stuck in a moat Friday, two weeks after a 6-month-old female was found wandering in another plantation in Malaysia's eastern Sabah state, said Laurentius Ambu, director of the state wildlife department.

"We have never had this experience before where the mothers abandon their babies," Ambu said, adding that officials were investigating what caused this to happen. It was not immediately clear how long the elephants had been alone.

Both elephants will be kept at a wildlife park in Sabah, Ambu said.

Borneo pygmy elephants, which are genetically distinct from other subspecies, are known for their babyish faces, large ears and relatively long tails.

Ambu estimated there are about 1,400 to 2,000 pygmy elephants in Sabah. They remain endangered, but their number has stabilized in recent years amid conservation efforts to protect their jungle habitats from being torn down to create plantations and development projects, he said.